Saturday, April 4, 2020

A last visit for now

I've been working at a nursing home for 3 years in activities. Each Saturday, I go room to room singing with residents who are bed ridden or do not come out of their rooms. For the last 3 weeks, all of the residents have been instructed to stay in their rooms due to covoid 19 precautions.

Today, I made my last round of singing room to room until the pandemic subsides. It was a hard decision to step away but better to do so now and be safe

Today's musical visits were very touching to me.  I sat with Ms. C. for a long time and we sang many songs from her childhood camp and church songbook.  C. is someone who attends all activities and she's very social.  Being quarantined to her room has been hard on her. Today though, we escaped the feelings of sadness and isolation through sharing of songs.  We sang some of our favorites, 'We Shall Not Be Moved," "Keep on the Sunny Side," "Do Lord," "I'll Fly Away." She sang some of the songs I don't know for me, "Red, Red Robin, ""When the Roll is Called up Yonder." I always feel uplifted from being around her.  She endures her suffering (she is wheelchair bound and usually in a lot of pain) without complaint and always finds a way to have a positive outlook.

I also loved singing with Mr. M.   I know he loves old Motown and we sang, "My Girl" first. Lots of smiles and laughter with that song.  When I started to sing, "Stand By Me,"  Mr. M. sang along while wiping his tears away with a handkerchief. We then sang a few songs by Bill Withers, who just passed away. "Lean on Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine" were particularly poignant for the times.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when I am there because there are so many of them and only one of me. Yet when we sing, the sadness melts away and they help me just as much as I hope to be helping them.

We're gonna get through this. We got this.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Music in the time of Covoid-19

Hello everyone! As you may imagine, my work providing live therapeutic music has come to a halt indefinitely. However, I am fortunate that I am on staff at a local nursing home (limited hours) and so I have been able to continue providing the comforts of music to the residents there going room to room.

Yesterday, we thought out of the box and I led a sing along over the intercom.   We sang some of our favorite gospel songs, "This Little Light of Mine," "I'll Fly Away," "Do Lord," "Down By the Riverside," "Amazing Grace." Our last song, "Stand by Me," we video taped the residents singing outside their rooms in the hallway and we shared it on Facebook to bring cheer to our community and all around the world.

I've worked here now for 3 years and these people are so inspirational to me.  What we are now having to go through (self isolation) is something they live with every day. Lockdown is nothing new to them every flu season. Many of them do not have family or friends nearby to visit them. Yet they make do and they find little joys in simple things.

I plan to keep our intercom music flowing as well as room to room visits. I am very thankful for the opportunity to continue to share music and bring hope and comfort to others. This work is what also brings me hope and comfort.

May you all find hope and comfort in this time of uncertainty.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Soundscapes come alive

Those of you who know me, know that I have a  Cochear implant (CI) and that has given me some unique experiences.  Awhile ago, Cochlear Americas (manufacturer of my CI) had a contest among CI recipients called, "Inspire Us."  They invited us to submit a work of visual art that would represent our hearing journey.

I immediately thought of this painting/collage pictured above that I did. Though I was not thinking of this theme when I did this work, it clearly does depict an image showing all of my favorite sounds.

I once lived in a teepee in rural California and went to sleep hearing the sounds of an owl hooting. I loved that sound more than anything!

Also, I love the sounds of the oceans' waves, the wind blowing in the trees, (the kites represent the wind), sounds of animal growls and expressions of joy. The stars represent outer space and technology.  The colorful, squiggly banners represent music and rhythm.

It turns out that this piece was selected to be part of a special art show at the Cochlear Americas headquarters in CO. I love the idea that others will see this work and maybe get a smile out of it.

One thing CI recipients know is that we do not take the simplest sound for granted.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

39 Years of Guitar books!

I have now been playing the guitar for 45 years. It all started out innocently enough when my family moved to a new neighborhood and I met a girl my age who played the guitar. I was immediately enchanted with it and I loved that we could sit outside on her porch and sing and play. At the time, I played drums in my high school band and I was aware that the whole neighborhood could hear me practicing on my drum set. The guitar appealed to me because I could go in my room and shut the door and create a whole world of music in privacy. I loved that it was a rhythmic instrument that playcd melody too. In short, I was hooked.

Over the years, I went through many phases.  The longest and most influential phase was when I studied the classical guitar. I studied for 7 years in Chicago with a private teacher. In the photo above on top is the first classical guitar book I ever had in 1981. From there I grew to love Bach and Andrew York and Carlvaro and Bogdonovich and all sorts of guitar composers. I traveled to Germany one summer to a Classical Guitar Festival and enjoyed going to the Guitar Foundation of America in Charleston, SC one year.

All of this came up because I am getting ready to move in the fall and so it is time to look at some of the things I have been carrying with me on my shelves all these years.  I have never wanted to throw these books pictured above away, but it is true, I no longer use them.

However, I found a music school in SC that will use them in their music library! I am very happy that my sentimental memories will be enjoyed by more people.

Thanks for the memories!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Farewell to a decade and hello to 2020!

I spent the last week of 2019's holiday season playing music for those needing an extra boost. On Christmas Day, I went to the local homeless shelter and played my guitar. It was my first time there and I was grateful to offer some musical respite from being outside. The shelter is in the basement of a church and I sat in one of the rooms playing some holiday and original music on my guitar.  I know that music is such a bridge that allows me access into the lives of people I would ordinarily never encounter. The man who worked at the desk told me I'd be welcome to come back anytime he is there. I plan to do that!

I also played for a man at the hospital in ICU as he was given his last rites. His mother stood by as the nurse tended him and the chaplain read the rites. I played, "Amazing Grace," on my guitar.  It was a very moving ceremony and I was touched to see the nurse in tears as well. I felt privileged to be in  that I could contribute to the last moment's of this man and his family.

As always, I am grateful to do the work I am able to do and I wish everyone a healthy, prosperous and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Holiday Peace

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! I enjoy this time of year visiting nursing homes, hospitals and mission homes and bringing holiday cheer to those less fortunate.

This past week, I enjoyed singing with residents at The Virginia Home in Richmond. It is a really neat place that has been around for many years.

I love singing Christmas Carols.  People often ask me, "What is their favorite?" And my answer would be, "Silent Night."  What I love about that song is, it really does make you think about the peacefulness of this time of year. When the days are shorter and we are encouraged to reflect on the lessons and experiences of the year. We often think that the holiday season is supposed to be only about joy and cheer but it is the quietness and peace I seek out the most.

I wish you all a peaceful holiday season and many blessings in the coming New Year and always!

Monday, October 21, 2019


My work continues to fascinate me with how people respond to music. There is a man I play for at a mission home. He is what I would call an abstract thinker. Meaning he thinks out of the box.  So when I play for him, I push past my own boundaries and think out of the box.  The other day I improvised on my guitar (instrumental) and played for 45 minutes non-stop. I played everything from blues, jazz, classical, Celtic, folk styles. I rarely improvise for such a long time meaning that I did not know what would come next. Some of the things that came out, I really enjoyed hearing. My friend Mr. C closed his eyes and listened. At one point, I thought he fell asleep. But when I finished playing, he opened his eyes and said, “Moods!”  I said, “Yes, I played a lot of moods, which ones are your favorites?” He said, “I like them all!”  He said he really enjoyed it. He is someone who has some mental health issues, so I feel that playing improvised music matches his way of thinking and processing his world.  I love it that he really gets what I am doing.

At the hospital, I played for a patient in ICU. He was very agitated and moving around and struggling.   For these kind of patients, I try to play very slowly and quietly to help them lock into the slow rhythms to hopefully encourage them to rest and sleep. Sure enough, within 5 minutes of playing for him, he fell asleep. However, he did not stay asleep.  After he woke up, he started in with his struggling and restless movement. I discovered he responded very well to the key of E. It seemed every time I played an E chord, he would stop his struggling and close his eyes and sleep. That is what I try to do in my work with ICU patients. To find a sound, chord, progression that feels familiar and safe and brings them comfort. He eventually fell asleep for a long time.All in a days work. I love my work! Thanks for stopping by.

The picture above is one I took of the sky last week. I think of moods like colors and this describes how I play at times - lots of hues and shades and colors.